The following table shows the users car preferences:
|Are you buying a new or used car?
|Car Body Type
|From Price Range
|To Price Range
|Economical to run and maintain
Your limited budget constrains your choices somewhat. The perennial favorites Toyota Corolla and Mazda 323 rise to the top in this budget that will also closely satisfy your top 3 priorities. More specifically the Toyota Corolla CSi and Mazda 323 Protégé, both sedan variants of the (more) popular hatchbacks. Toyotas are renowned for their reliability and this Corolla didn’t deviate from the norm. But the Mazda doesn’t lag too far behind, if at all. Both cars are robust and reliable and should satisfy your priority 1 criteria. The Toyota may be a little cheaper to maintain/service, which can mainly be attributed to the cheaper parts. There would be negligible difference for resale, given they are already 20 yo cars.
If you do want somethin a little different however, and perhaps a little more exclusive (perhaps not the best choice of words for this price bracket) then the Mazda 323 Protégé would be my choice.
Happy car shopping.